Can I Diet after Childbirth?

After childbirth, many women try to lose weight as quickly as possible. This is entirely possible, but needs to be done the right way.

First, many women will naturally lose weight as a result of breastfeeding – however, this isn’t true for everyone. When you are breastfeeding, you actually need to eat around 200 calories a day more than when you were pregnant, simply in order to provide sufficient nutritional milk for your baby, while still meeting your own nutritional needs.

While the temptation to quickly lose weight can be huge – you want your life back, your body back! The immediate postnatal period is not a good time to start a calorie-restricted diet. Rapid weight loss can release chemicals called ketones – these will wind up in your milk, and are potentially unhealthy for your baby.

The first thing to remember to lose weight after childbirth is that it took nine months to put the weight on, so it’s unrealistic to expect to lose weight quickly. Research suggests that it can take up to a year to safely return to your normal weight. The sort of rapid weight loss that celebrities are reported to experience, where they lose weight in six weeks or so, are unhealthy and unrealistic.

A safe and realistic rate of weight loss is a pound a week. This is a sensible rate, not too hard to achieve, and will quickly add up – 25 pounds in 6 months.

Weight Loss After Pregnancy:

Researchers at the University of California at Davis support one pound per week as a realistic and safe rate of weight loss for new, breast-feeding mothers.

By eating sensibly and exercising regularly this can be done without a fad diet. Another study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition compared three groups of women:

– Non-dieters

– Dieters (Diet only)

– Those who combined diet and exercise

They found that while the non-dieters did lose a small amount of weight, the other two groups lost significantly more. There was little or no difference in the weight lost between the diet only and the diet and exercise group, but whereas all of the weight loss in the diet and exercise group was from fat loss, only two thirds of the weight loss in the diet only group was from fat.

This is significant, because it means that:

– The exercise and diet group lost more fat than the diet only group – this is good thing; fat is what needs to go

– The diet only group also lost lean body mass – muscle. This is bad. Muscle is essential for everyday functions such as lifting, carrying, and joint stability. It also burns more calories than anything else in your body, so losing muscle can ultimately lead to weight gain as your body burns fewer calories.

In addition, there was no difference in the amount of milk production between the three groups, nor in how much weight their babies gained.

Thus a sensible diet plus regular exercise is the best route to follow for post-natal weight loss, with walking considered one of the best forms of exercise for new moms.

It doesn’t have to be a huge amount of exercise. The recommendation is 30 minutes of exercise, at least three to five days a week. In addition to the walking (or other aerobic exercise), this should include specific exercises for the muscles most affected by pregnancy.

If you didn’t exercise during pregnancy, start out with shorter sessions – say 15 minutes, and gradually increase your activity levels until you reach 30 minutes.

Of course, for exercise to be effective you have to exercise at an appropriate intensity level. Exercise should feel moderately difficult, but not exhausting – you should feel a little out of breath but still be able to hold a conversation.

Vianesa Vargas is a recognized wellness expert weight loss and former fitness coach for new moms. Sign up for her newsletter now weight loss and get your free weight loss planner.

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